Crazy for Cup Stacking

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Crazy for Cup Stacking

November 5, 2014

5.280 seconds is the time to beat! William Orrell holds the world record in cycle cup stacking (you have to see it to believe it). If you’ve never tried this before, you’re missing out on a fun, popular sport for kids of all ages. Cup stacking incorporates hand and eye coordination with architecture basics in two and three dimensions. Cup stackers create specific cup stacks and artfully collapse them down in seconds. It happens so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Cup Stacking Basics

Any plastic cups will work, but think about the space you are working in before you select your cups. Smaller 3-ounce cups are perfectly sized for little hands building on table tops. If you have a larger space and bigger kids, the giant 16-ounce cups will be your best option. Paper cups can be used, but they tend to get squished more easily.

Now grab your cups, settle into your building space, and get ready for cup stacking games. Give each stacker 10 cups. Have each person build a basic 3-D pyramid with a triangular base of 6 cups (see photo above). Next have them build a “2-D” pyramid with a base of 4 cups.

Which structure was easiest to construct? Did the kids notice that the closer the cups are to each other, the sturdier the pyramid is? How quickly can your crew collapse the structures?

Cup stacking games from Bedtime Math

Next, use all of the cups to build a circular tower (see photo above) as a team. Why is this more difficult to construct? Notice the cups are not able to stack as closely together and are more on the edge of the cup below. This makes for trickier tower building. Older kids may enjoy the challenge of figuring out the quickest way to collapse this tower. Of course, younger cup stackers may simply enjoy knocking down their creations.

More Cup Stacking Games

  • Experiment with shapes of plastic cup towers. Give each person or group a set amount of cups and let them make their own structure. Discuss how the structure’s shape makes a difference in its structural integrity.
  • Try stacking the cups bottom-to-bottom, then top-to-top to make one giant column. Have kids estimate how many cups will be needed to make a stack as tall as their favorite toy. Take a giant leap and try to build one as tall as your tallest child! This will take a lot of patience, persistence, and practice.
  • Cup stacking races can be done as individuals and teams. Start with 36 cups and see how quickly a triangular tower with an eight cup base can be built and collapsed.

Can’t get enough cup stacking? Don’t miss this Bedtime Math problem!

Images courtesy of Beth Levine

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About the Author

Beth Levine

Beth is a mom of two young boys in the Capital Region area of New York. She blogs at TheAngelForever.com and can be found on Twitter via @TheAngelForever. Beth is a lifelong learner and educator that is always looking for new and fun ways to get kids thinking.

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